BOOK REVIEW: Mrs Fox by Sarah Hall

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What can be decided in a few moments that will not be questioned for a lifetime?

Mrs. Fox by Sarah Hall is one of the many short stories that has been given the Faber makeover this year in a collection that is first celebrating the 90th anniversary of Faber & Faber – but most importantly in my opinion, is celebrating the short story form!

The Faber Stories collection as a whole is dazzling and mind boggling, with many fabulous short stories by an array of masters in the field. Each story given a beautifully constructed new cover design and given the honour of being produced in its own small sized paperback. There are more details at the end of the post on where you can pick these up and a full list in the link of the titles being chosen for publication – it’s a collection you need to own!

Mrs. Fox is the short story that opened Sarah Hall’s masterful collection Madame Zero (which we had the delight of reviewing here) – it was also the 2013 winner of the BBC National Short Story Award, so you know it’s going to be pretty amazing from the outset.

I’d not read the story before as the Madame Zero review was completed by another reviewer and I’ve not found the time to dip into the collection myself. But when finding out it was going to be in the second batch of the Faber Stories collection – I couldn’t wait.

I am such a fan of Sarah Hall’s writing, so, I just jumped right in and bought the Kindle version – I’d recommend others wait and get the new Faber edition paperback to add to your soon to be growing collection!

Mrs. Fox is a story that is full of magical realism and with the guile and sheer brilliance of Hall’s writing, is a tale that lives long in the memory showcasing a mastery of the short story form, and it is clear to see why it won the BBC Short Story Award and why it has been chosen in the Faber Stories collection.

Down the path he walks, holding his fox. Her brightness escapes the coat at both ends; it is like trying to wrap fire.

It is a tale of metamorphism, both physically and mentally – and brings to mind the great Steppenwolf by Hermann Hess (we also reviewed The Folio Society Edition here).

Mrs. Fox is a tale that focuses on the relationship of a husband and wife, the small intimacies of the world that they have created. It’s about the outward appearance of the perfection they exude to all who watch on, but this tale is deftly laced with inner tension by Hall as she splices in subtle notes that something is not quite right. It’s about how anything can change in an instant, and it’s how and what we do in those situations that counts.

He cleans away the black, twisted scat that he finds, tries not to be disgusted. If we were old, he tells himself, if I were her carer.

In my opinion Mrs. Fox is a sublime piece of short fiction, blending seamlessly magical realism and weird fiction into a heady cocktail of wonderment. It might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but I will be sure to be getting drunk on its magical qualities for some time to come – it’s a masterstroke of brilliance from the as ever ingenious mind of Sarah Hall.

As if only now, after her walk and purging of the disease of being human, she is ready for breakfast.

If you’ve not discovered Sarah Hall before I’d say Mrs. Fox is a great place to start!

Mrs. Fox is published by Faber & Faber for more information about their Faber Stories and 90th Anniversary click here.

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Sarah Hall

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Sarah Hall was born in Cumbria in 1974. She received a BA from Aberystwyth University, Wales, and a MLitt in Creative Writing from St Andrews, Scotland. She is the author of Haweswater, which won the 2003 Commonwealth Writers Prize for Best First Novel, a Society of Authors Betty Trask Award, and a Lakeland Book of the Year prize.

In 2004, her second novel, The Electric Michelangelo, was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize, the Commonwealth Writers Prize (Eurasia region), and the Prix Femina Etranger, and was longlisted for the Orange Prize for Fiction.

Her third novel, The Carhullan Army, (Daughters of the North, USA) was published in 2007, and won the 2006/07 John Llewellyn Rhys Prize, the James Tiptree Jr. Award, a Lakeland Book of the Year prize, was shortlisted for the Arthur C. Clarke Award for science fiction, and long-listed for the Dublin IMPAC Award. The Carhullan Army was listed as one of The Times 100 Best Books of the Decade.

Her fourth novel, How To Paint A Dead Man, was published in 2009 and was longlisted for the Man Booker prize and won the Portico Prize for Fiction 2010.

The Wolf Border, her fifth novel, was published in 2015, to much critical acclaim, and was shortlisted for The Southbank Sky Arts Awards and the James Tate Memorial Black prize, and won the 2015 Cumbria Life Culture Awards ‘Writer of the Year’ prize.

Her first collection of short stories, titled The Beautiful Indifference, was published by Faber & Faber in November 2011. The Beautiful Indifference won the Portico Prize for Fiction 2012 and the Edge Hill short story prize, it was also short-listed for the Frank O’Connor Prize. Her second collection, Madame Zero has been reviewed by STORGY Magazine here.

Her work has been translated into more than a dozen languages.

Sarah Hall is an honorary fellow of Aberystwyth University and the University of Cumbria, and a fellow of the Civitella Ranieri Foundation (2007). She is a member of the Royal Society of Literature. She has judged a number of prestigious literary awards and prizes. She is a recipient of the American Academy of Arts and Letters EM Forster Award. She has tutored for the Faber Academy, The Guardian, the Arvon Foundation, and has taught creative writing in a variety of establishments in the UK and abroad. Sarah currently lives in Norwich, Norfolk.

 

Sally Rooney was born in 1991 and lives in Dublin, where she graduated from an MA at Trinity College in 2013. Her work has appeared in GrantaThe White ReviewThe Dublin ReviewThe Stinging Fly, Kevin Barry’s Stonecutter and The Winter Pages anthology. Conversations with Friends is her first novel.

Follow her @sallyrooney

Reviewed by Ross Jeffery

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